When I was 15, I experienced Mean Girls. Ok, we know that’s not true–I definitely experienced Mean Girls way before I was 15, but they didn’t associate with me. They were usually the cool kids, and I wasn’t. But when I was 15, that changed. My circle of friends branched off, and the newly cooler half tormented the rest of us. Maybe they didn’t, maybe that’s just how it felt.
The closest thing I have felt to that since was a few years ago, when a grown up Mean Girl, a co-worker, belittled me frequently, often in front of her students. Behind closed doors, she told me that the reason my students (who were one of those groups that simply complained about everything, and never turned in any work) didn’t turn things in was because of me–that I was a bad teacher. I was back to 15 years old again, when someone–my peer, made me feel inferior. And I was so overwhelmed, and stressed, and baffled that I began to believe it.
Fortunately for me, she was fired for other reasons, and I didn’t have to think about her again. That was years ago. 4 or 5, at least. And I bucked up, strengthened my self-esteem, and relished in the fact grown ups at work had my back. But I find myself back there again right now. I am not sure if it is because I am tired, or because I have not had time to exercise and I have gained weight, or if I can’t seem to push Mean Girl behavior out of my gut. Something happened recently where a co-worker threw me under the bus for no reason. Her accusations were complete lies, and everyone in the room was baffled and disturbed. I drew up enough courage to confront her to clarify her misinformation. Instead of realizing she was wrong, she apologized because I’m “simply sensitive”. She proceeded to fake-stoke my ego, but I stopped her. I’m tactful and reserved in moments like these, not stupid.
I don’t know how women (and maybe men too, I am not sure), especially teachers, can continue to be Mean Girls past high school, through college and graduate school, into parenthood, and nearly into retirement. And even worse, why do I at 36 years old, kow tow to such Mean Girls? I was raised smarter than that. Why do I go back to that 15 year old girl? It’s too bad that a drop of women in my life are like this, and still have the ability to strip me down. I think of my niece and goddaughter, who I would have no problem setting straight if they ever treated another girl this way, who I would crumble with if they were ever to tell me a Mean Girl stripped them down.
Maybe that’s it–maybe I am already stripped from this first year in my new job, and I just don’t have the capacity for another stripping. But it bothers me when I don’t sleep at night because I am racking my brain over and over to figure out what I could have done to be treated that way. Like I did at 15. I doubt Mean Girls have a tough time sleeping at night, although they should. Someday, they will need people like me to teach their kids.
So as I wind down the rest of the year, which ends Thursday, I have learned the following:
- I love my job.
- I am good at my job.
- I don’t like when other people don’t do their job, and criticize how I do mine.
- My conscience is stronger than anyone else’s I know.
- 15 was 21 years ago.
Next year, I will learn:
- Other people’s insecurities are not my problem.
This is he hardest lesson to learn.
One More Try–George Michael
Invisible Sun–The Police
Seven Spanish Angels–Ray Charles & Willie Nelson
I’m Waiting for the Day–The Beach Boys
The Only Living Boy in New York–Simon & Garfunkel