Saturday, June 4, 2016

June Season

It's one of those mornings when I wake up feeling like I really miss having my book to work on. I'm gonna try some normal blogging to see if that helps.

First of all, things have been going much, much better at my job lately, and I've been developing much better relationships with people. I wish I could write more about them, but I'm still a little uncomfortable writing about specific work stuff on my blog. But this story is pretty innocuous:

So, it's June, which means it's graduation season. Lots of my coworkers have had graduations to go to in the past week. My boss just had two nieces graduating this week, and my coworker has a niece graduating this weekend as well. They were both talking about their nieces and how they were so proud of them, and I was proud of their nieces too.

Sometime when I got home last night, I realized something: for the first time since college, I could actually talk about graduation and not cringe. For years, I used to cringe and feel sick to my stomach anytime that people talked about high school or college graduations because it made me think a lot about college and about how all the praise I got at my own high school graduation ended up hurting me (this only happened when people talked about high school and college graduations; younger graduations never bothered me). This time I didn't cringe at all. I just felt happy for their nieces, the same way that I would if their nieces had made it to dance team nationals or gotten their dream jobs or anything else not related to graduation. Here are the reasons I think this happened:

1. Enough time has passed. And no, I don't believe that time heals everything, but I think enough time has passed that I don't automatically cringe when someone mentions graduation. And it's not so much a matter of time passing as it is about that space being filled with lots of things unrelated to college, that it actually feels like a long time ago, not something that's currently on my mind. And just to be clear, if I ever hear anything that sounds coercive or not 100 percent consensual, like people saying that college will be "good" for someone when that someone doesn't seem so thrilled about it, I will still cringe and will absolutely say something to the person about it, but I think I'm at a point where just the general mention of graduation doesn't upset me. Which brings me to...

2. (And this is much more important): My boss and my coworker strike me as non-coercive people who would not be trying to push someone into something that they did not want to do. I've done a lot of observing and listening in on conversations before I shared a lot with them, and I don't suspect that their nieces are going to go through what I went through, based on how they talked about their nieces, and just based on the way they are. This is an important point. I know there was a time when I was just so upset about what happened to me that any mention at all of a graduation was upsetting, no matter what the circumstances. (my ex dragged me to two graduations in 2011 and both of them set me into weeks of depression and flashbacks, but he didn't give a fuck). But there were also times when I think that people around me (meaning my ex) tried to attribute my pain to my past alone, when the truth was that their behavior was coercive. I think that my ex's parents' behavior toward his sister was always coercive, that they were trying to push her into things whether she wanted to do them or not. I think a lot of the times that I was upset about graduations, it was because actual bad things were happening in the present - it wasn't *just* because of my past. And that's not happening this time. I'm finally with non-coercive people whom I trust to not push people.

Now, after thinking this over, I wondered if I was jumping the gun a bit. After all, it's June, not September. What's going to happen come September, when everyone at work is talking about everyone going off to college? Well, I think I can handle it this time because I trust these people, and because I have a plan:

1. I'm going to only talk about what makes people happy. If someone is proud of their niece starting college, I will ask, "Is your niece excited to go to college?" I will keep the focus 100 percent on how it's great that people are getting to do things that they really want to do and things that make them happy, rather than talking about college being an objectively good thing. I've been in enough environments where people talk about school stuff as objectively good and it's an uphill battle trying to push "Is this person going to be happy?" but my coworkers are people that I trust not to do that, they seem like they would be way more focused on what makes the person happy anyway, so this won't be hard for me to do.

2. If anything comes up where it seems like someone is hesitant to go to college and people are saying that they'll get used to it or anything like that, I'm going to say to the person whose niece it is, (in a helpful, non-accusatory tone), "At some point, you should probably let your niece know that you support her decisions no matter what. Make sure she knows that if it doesn't work out, if for any reason she decides that she doesn't like it there and wants to come home, that you'll be there for her and support her choice and not pressure her to stay. I would definitely mention that because that's something that I needed someone in my family to say to me." I'll say it with the built-in assumption that they would be supportive, and I'm just suggesting that they mention it. The important thing to remember is that this would actually be effective with this group, it won't be an uphill battle, because I have a great group.

And you know something else? I think they will actually respect where I come from. I think when I say that I needed someone to do it for me, they'll respect that and take it seriously.

When September rolls around, if I can stay in my good group and avoid being around anyone who is coercive, I'll be fine. I won't be feeling sick. I'll feel good that I've potentially helped these nieces whom I'll never meet by advising their aunts to do something that I needed someone to do for me.

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