Hey everyone, this is an argument that I’m working with, so this is a rough draft. I’m hoping to improve it as time goes by, but right now I wanted to put my thoughts down and share it with others for their opinions, criticisms and experiences. So keep in mind that it’s a little disjointed and all over the place at the moment. There’s a lot of recurring themes in my essays, including the lack of human compassion I’m unfortunate enough to witness daily. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how unhappy so many of my peers are, and how they’ve kind of accepted this as a rule. A lot of their misery is influenced by their occupations, and toxic work environments. I want to explore this a little more to understand our motivations, and inability to recognize our own faults. I’m currently working on a book that tackles a lot of this subject matter, so I’m just trying to work shop it and get it out there for people to read. I’m trying to expand on a lot of the sentences, and delve deeper into the psychology of the experiences I’ve written about here. Thanks.
You know I grew up in a family that didn’t have a lot of expectations for me. My parents didn’t want me to go to university and would have been pleased if I worked as a produce clerk at Fortino’s. I applied to the universities of Guelph, York, McMaster and Nipissing as a means to escape my dysfunctional home. At the time my older brother was a maniac, heavily into drugs and my parents coped with this by becoming hysterical at any mild infraction me or my brothers committed. I just wanted out, to be on my own, away from them.
When I was finally accepted to all four of my choices a lot of my classmates teased me because I was seriously considering attending Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario. Those who were going to McGill and Queen’s looked down on me, like I was less a person because of where I was leaning to spend my future. I have to sheepishly admit, that they had an effect on my decision and I eventually chose to go to Guelph, but even that was met with snide comments.
When I made my choice my father warned me, “Don’t go to university and think that you’re better than any of us.” That was it. He didn’t tell me that he was proud of me, didn’t offer to help pay for my tuition, he just warned me not to get too big for my britches.
Now keep in mind that my brother was in and out of rehab my whole life. Still is in fact. He just can’t get his life together, and during my last two years of high school, when I was trying to achieve good grades to get into university I had to wake up each morning at 5 a.m. to take him to work, which was 30 minutes away (an hour to and back), because he had a suspended driver’s licence from a drinking and driving charge. It was not his first offence, and I was responsible for driving him around; wherever he wanted to go, I had to be of service. After school I had to drive all the way to Milton to pick him up from work and drive him home, so the entire journey cost me two hours of my day. After I would go to work where I was investing almost 40 hours a week at the IGA in the Shopper’s World mall, in addition to attending school. My dad made it clear to me that he was not going to pay for my university, or my rent while living away from home, so I had to pay my own way. This kind of confused me because my parents always bragged to dinner guests that they were upper middle class.
My whole life, my parents took very little interest in my schooling, they didn’t really care what grades I got, and didn’t appear to notice how emotionally exhausted I was from trekking my sociopathic brother all over the place. They didn’t cultivate my creativity, or take any notice that I was a skilled writer. In fact, neither did my teachers. Many of them thought I was pretty dumb, and they treated me like I was clueless all the time. In fact, one teacher told me that I had this perpetual look on my face, like I had no idea what anyone was talking about. I thought I was being observational, but I guess I just looked stupid!
My home life simply sucked. I was bullied at school for being gay and one day I made the mistake of telling my mother about my ordeal who screamed and hollered that they were making fun of me because I walked and talked like a gay person. Clearly I wasn’t getting any sympathy from her. My misery was my own fault for being too gay! Now I don’t blame her, she was simply doing the best that she could, and I’m sure she meant well, it just came across as terribly prejudiced. So as you can see, there was little salvation. I turned inward, nose in a book, pen to paper and just tried to get my muddled thoughts down as a means of therapy. When you’re in hell you kind of just keep going, and it became so normal to me that I didn’t recognize how truly horrible my life was.
To this day my parents have no idea what the difference is between an undergraduate and graduate degree. They still have no idea what I majored in, and they don’t really care. In a way I respect that, at least they don’t pretend to care, which to me, is so much worse.
For whatever reason I always annoyed my family. They were angry over my vocabulary, mocking my education, like it wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously at all. They would yell, “Why do you have to use so many big words?” I wasn’t speaking in a way that was any different from the way I normally spoke. I have always had a very good command of the English language. As a child I read a lot, but even that was grounds for ridicule by my family, who would complain that I was “off in my fantasy land.”
Because of these early experiences, even before I started my first year in university, I had to come to terms with other people’s opinions about how I was choosing to live my life. I just seemed to be disappointing everyone, and impressing no one. It didn’t matter that I was the FIRST person in my family to attend higher education, or that I was smart, and somewhat ambitious. That was seen as a flaw to my family. To my friends, I was seen as a simpleton, not reaching high enough by choosing more prestigious universities.
I remember that near the end of my first year of university I took the steps to transfer to McGill. But after a while I thought differently, and learned to accept my choices, and that the only way to live my life, was to be happy with the decisions I made. After all, it was my life, and I shouldn’t be living it for anyone else but myself. It didn’t matter how much I tried to make people be proud of me, they just didn’t seem to care. So I learned to be proud of myself. That was enough.
But I didn’t always remember this piece of self-advice. During university I started to date Keith and met his family who were nice, and have always been super kind to me. But I could tell that they didn’t approve of me right away.
I got it, I was most definitely a strange character. I was confused, and my childhood was looming over me, and I was embarrassed by it. I have two older siblings who are a mess, my parents are hysterical, and my two younger brothers don’t really care very much for me. Here I was, trying to be accepted by another family, a more sane, emotionally mature family.
Well you can imagine that the more I tried to be loved, the more it worked against me. Even Keith’s friends were terrible to me. They were an exclusive group, and no matter how hard I tried to be accepted by them, to be included, they were determined to make me feel like an outsider. Well it worked. They were successful.
The fringe is where I have always belonged. At a barbecue one night I thought I was finally making progress with some of them, that they were beginning to embrace me a little more, but then one of them uttered to the other, “Do you think Shawn and Keith are going to fuck tonight?” Shawn was a friend from university and Keith had spent much of the night talking to him. I’m not the jealous type, and didn’t think there was any budding sexual attraction between them.
Now keep in mind that when this friend presented this insensitive question, Keith and I had been an item for three years. It was clear how little they valued our relationship, how little they thought of and valued me. The disappointment on my face was painfully obvious and they immediately understood what they had done, but they didn’t apologize, they just pretended the incident never happened. I had nowhere to escape, so I went to Keith’s car and cried. I just sobbed.
It was a difficult reality to accept. I was alone.
Now I’m focusing on a lot of negative past experiences here, but there is a reason, and I will try to tie them together.
The main message from these stories is that there are a lot of people in this world who can’t get past their own egos, their own smug attitudes, or their own arrogance to be kind to others. They see the world through their own lenses, and they’re intolerant of those who have their own world-view.
That’s what families are like. I’m certain if I accepted my parents limited expectations of me I would have a closer relationship with them. I understand fully that if I didn’t openly talk about my family troubles, and pretended that my life was a kin to the The Cosby Show, we’d all be happy as can be.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these moments in my life, wondering if the universe has placed these obstacles in front of me as offerings to learn something about myself.
I’m definitely a humble person, because I’ve never been really embraced by anyone, or any group of people. I’ve had no choice, my life is far from perfect, and I’ve experienced a lot of hardship. But I don’t feel sorry for myself, though it may appear in this post that I do, I am aware how lucky I have been.
Of course, it always helps to have the support of the people you love, but the reality is that in my formative years I didn’t have that. So I had to support myself, and be proud of my own accomplishments.
[Okay so here is how I'm trying to tie this in... Not sure how it's going to go, but I want to transition to toxic work environments and how embracing our flaws can lead to personal growth, fulfillment and relationship building. We'll see. It's possible that these exist as separate ideas all together.]
Here goes. I have a lot of personal flaws and I will relay some of them to you here in this post.
I’m cantankerous, pessimistic, stubborn, moody, cynical, prone to snap judgments and obnoxiously loud. I hold grudges, find it difficult to forgive insensitive people and I am confrontational. I feel angry at things I feel are unjust and can’t shut my mouth when I feel someone has done someone else wrong. I have little problem with conflict, and voice my opinion without thinking about the consequences they might have on the people around me. I’m argumentative, and will sometimes lie to make a point, or to win a debate. I can be manipulative, cold and calculating. Sometimes I dream too big, and I am disappointed when that dream isn’t realized, primarily because I lacked motivation to put in any concrete effort to make it happen in the first place. I can by hypocritical and I contradict myself a lot. Sometimes I will antagonize a friend, or a frenemy just to see them squirm and I know exactly how to annoy people I don’t like, and relish the chance to do so. I ramble, talk too quickly and I am arrogant. Rarely do I find someone who is my intellectual superior, but realize that my ego is much bigger than my capacity. I can be vain, and egotistical. I have disdain for phoniness and can’t tolerate fake people, much like Holden Caulfied.
So why am I revealing all of this to you? Well I’ll tell you.
Too often in my life I have encountered colleagues, peers, or strangers who are unaware of their own faults. They seem to live in this fairy tale land where they are good, and everyone else is bad. They don’t take any accountability or responsibility for their actions and believe that everyone else is out to get them. They’re right. You’re wrong.
I’m willing to admit that maybe they aren’t so clueless, but they certainly don’t attempt to look at their own faults, their own demons, and by doing so, work on fixing them, or at least analyze why they are the way that they are.
Individuals behave badly because they are ultimately afraid. It’s fear that drives their lives, and influences them to commit desperate acts against their family, friends and colleagues.
Because of their inability to look inward and focus on self-improvement, they negatively impact the lives of the people around them, creating hostile, unfriendly environments based on their deep insecurities that compel them to behave so thoughtlessly.
The CFO at my last job was a tyrannical bully. He used intimidation methods to get his way, and could be heard yelling at staff and concerning him with matters that were not his business. At one point he complained about me to HR because I forgot my key to get into work.
It didn’t take long before he began to target me. I usually arrive early to work, before most of my colleagues, and he noticed this, knocking on my office door to berate me about something that was a figment of his imagination. Now, I know from my childhood that the only way to deal with a bully is to confront them head on, so I challenged him immediately. And because I recognized that he was attempting to manipulate me when there were no witnesses I lodged an official complaint with HR.
This didn’t do much to assuage my concerns, as many people had complained about this person and his behaviour was accepted by the executives. But I wanted to send the message that even though he was desperately trying to bully me, I wasn’t afraid of him.
After my complaint, he refused to speak to me, and I took a lot of joy in smiling at him while we passed each other in the corridor. His childlike mentality, his clear lack of self-awareness, told me all I needed to know about his character. Instead of apologizing, or trying to rectify the situation, he chose to ignore me completely. What a wonderful environment he was fostering. He was an example of a sad person. He enjoyed treating people terribly, and I thought what a pitiful little man he was, to find happiness in making other people miserable.
But here’s the thing: Most of my friends have similar experiences at work and it leaves me wondering why bad behaviour is often ignored, and those who fight against it are treated like they are the ones who are the problem.
What does it say about our fear? We’re so clearly afraid of losing our jobs that we refuse to speak up against injustices committed by our superiors. I for one don’t have a problem speaking up, because I am not tied to my job. It doesn’t determine my value, or my worth. What makes me enjoy my life is ensuring that I surround myself with people who are kind, decent and determined to make the world a better place for everyone in it. I will not accept anything less.
One just has to look at organized religion to see how such behaviour can effect the world.
I quote Julia Sweeney: “Stephen Hawking came out and said that his theory that Black Holes obliterate anything that falls into them, probably his biggest contribution to science, the theory that his fame and reputation is based on, may not be right. Wouldn’t it be great if the Pope could do the same thing? If he came out and said, “Oh my, I’ve just discovered what science shows us about our humble but spectacular place in the universe, and I have to say: it is thrilling and mind-boggling beyond all imaginings! It makes the Bible so puny and uninspired, and certainly less poetic, by comparison. I’m terribly sorry. I sincerely misunderstood so much. I almost wish there were a God so I could be punished for all the suffering I have obliviously caused in the world. But since there will be no cosmic punishment for me, I will spend what time I have left working in a family planning clinic in Latin America. Good day.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our society focused on self-improvement with the goal of actually benefiting others? If we could admit that perhaps the way we conduct ourselves isn’t as enlightened as it could be? That perhaps we’re shit heads most of the time, and apologize for it. But not just apologize, work to ensure that we behave more benevolently?
Instead, we spend so much of our time thinking about our own pleasures; our motivations are to benefit our own lives. To get something, to attain some material object, or to satisfy our salivating egos.
In my life I have had some pretty terrible bosses. Bullies in heels, thoughtless individuals who care only about their life, and to hell with anyone else. To these people, everyone else exists as a means to an end. It’s almost too much to ask them where they get their motivation to behave the way that they do.
I list my faults at the beginning of this post because I acknowledge that I’m not perfect. Recognizing my flaws is an important step in addressing them, so that I can help build relationships, rather than allowing my insecurities to dismantle them. If I behave in a way that is unfair, I can identify that error, and work on correcting it.
I never want to be that kind of person who walks around thinking that everyone else is the problem. Usually when there is conflict the truth lies somewhere in between and both parties need to take a look at themselves and heal the fractured relationship.
Egos create a lot of unhappiness.