I remember when I was in Elementary School. Young and naive, learning and not knowing it in my classroom. Those days were such fantastic innocent times. The friendly mothering teacher taught us all to never be afraid to ask questions. That's how we all learn. No question is a silly question. Time passed and the innocence faded as we all got older. Teasing and bullying began quietly when competitiveness entered the ring. I remember asking a question in class once and heard the lilt of twittering snickers behind me. Of course the teacher scolded the students, but that first stab of embarrassment and teasing will stay with me forever. Since then, I made it my mission to know everything about everything, or shut up. Don't ask questions for fear my peers would laugh at me, pointing at my ignorance. I was not cool if I asked a question.
Through Secondary School this was not apparent in my learning process as I remained steadfast on the honor roll annually. I made sure I earned the best marks to prove I was an ideal student and still popular with the in crowd. Asking questions in front of my classmates was a gamble. Either I would look stupid if my query was silly or I would look too involved in the school work and be classified as an egghead. Not asking questions was safe; better safe than sorry. Sorry is a relative term in the context of that chapter of my life. Sorry meant, in my teenage years, unable to avoid the slings and arrows of my so called friends and peers. Always trying to fit in, eluding the simple questions I could have asked to help me in my studies, I managed to chip away at my self confidence, while building a false sense of self. Regardless of the marks I achieved in school, and post secondary education, I am more book smart than life smart.
So, as I write this I realize that we all grow at different rates and I seem to be learning the basics far later in life than most. When I went to university, I was able to take on a new persona but I was unable to build my self-confidence, each class becoming harder and harder. The classes were enormous; standing and asking a question was not an option with three hundred people possibly laughing at me for my ignorance. As the terms went by, I gradually lost honor roll standing, avoiding the imminent embarrassment of being in the spotlight as the loser in the class.
Now, at the tender age of 42 years young, I am not known as a shy person. I may not mingle with new people easily but I am not one to hide in the corner. I have had many nights where I will argue my point and stand tall, perhaps making up for all those years, fearful of being embarrassed. I am still one not to get into a confrontation, avoiding any possible face to face disagreement. If another person provokes me into a verbal fight, I will vie to the death. I am fairly uncomfortable in those situations but not unfamiliar with defending my core being. It rarely happens and I will avoid those scenarios if I can see them in my rear view mirror.
This passive aggressive behavior has advantages and disadvantages. Rarely do I involve myself in disagreements. I am always looking to make my bubble harmonized with the people and situations in my vicinity. If there is any possible threat to my bubble, I generally decide going deeper in my cave is better than outwardly showing my unhappiness. This backfires, in that, I have a tendency to save the stress and release it all at once. Additionally, I tend to blow off issues needing immediate focus, avoiding the possibility of a negative outcome.
Recently, I was presented with a challenge which would ultimately result in a loss to my lifestyle regardless of my choice. After suffering almost a year of stress at work, trying to fit a square peg in to circle hole, I was asked if simply removing the square peg would make my stress disappear. Problem being, removing the square peg resulted in the loss of my vacation time. I chose the happiness of my staff and myself over my vacation. Altruistic, I am, but also, understanding that removing the thorn from the paw and letting it heal, is a better option rather than trying to run on an injured paw, with the thorn causing a more painful infection. Yes, I left the thorn in for a bit too long, but I never made the choice to remove it from the throbbing paw. It fell out on its own, immediately relieving the pain. I am happier when my surrounding staff are happy. Without the thorn, my staff are elated and I have gained an enormous amount of respect and gratitude without confronting the problem head on.
Now, as the paw heals, the thorn will always be in the recesses of my memory, splinters of it spread around, impossible to remove, the scar tissue visible for all to see. Have I learned from my Shakespearean character flaw? Will this change my flight rather than fight characteristic? If there is a fork in the road clearly labeled "the wrong way", will I choose it just to avoid the challenge?