I ran into someone today I haven’t seen in a long time — maybe eight or nine years. Just a former coworker I didn’t have much contact with when he worked at my company.
I happily greeted him.
And he then unleashed about five minutes of insults to and at me.
It was awful. I was surprised, embarrassed and totally taken aback. When I started at my current job, I was 26. That’s pretty young. It was my first job in management. I made many, many foolish mistakes. It was also almost 11 years ago. For the most part, I feel like I’ve grown a lot in that time — as a manager and as a person. I’m sure we all can look back a decade ago and think we might make a different choice now, in certain situations.
But in those few minutes, standing with my cup of coffee in my office break room, I felt tiny. Stupid. Foolish. I felt 26 and insecure and nervous and intimidated all over again. I tried to extricate myself from the barrage before I started to cry, and I did, barely making it back to my desk.
I’m embarrassed by how hurt my feelings were by someone I haven’t even thought about in almost a decade. How easy it was to go right back to that terrible, vulnerable feeling I had when I first moved to South Dakota.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it here, love my job. I feel like even if not everybody here adores me, we all tolerate one another, and in general have the kind of common courtesy that keeps us from making comments like, “Nobody even likes you” to each others’ faces. Yes, that is a comment I heard today.
It really hurt. I feel more foolish that it hurt my feelings than anything else. But man, it really, really did. I remember many afternoons crying in a work bathroom stall when I first started managing a department. It’s overwhelming and, as my boss at the time said, trial by fire. I hate that when I am angry, my first reaction is to start crying. It makes throwing a bitchy comeback out pretty tough — nobody thinks you’re a good fighter when you are cursing at them through a bunch of tears.
I hope, really hope, that I am not the same stupid manager I was 10 years ago. And I hope that I can remember, in my own life, to give people a chance to grow and change, and not judge them as being the same as they were in high school or at their first job or whatever.
I’m also glad that I generally wear waterproof mascara.