Friday, September 22 was the first day of fall for 2017. It also marks the 4th week of school. It’s been a bit of a crazy turn, which isn’t unusual I suppose, but I had a couple of pathetic ‘feel-sorry-for-myself’ days this past week, which wasn’t fun at all. Some of the pathos stemmed from going-ons as work. Others from some very odd, and very out-of-character thoughts about life in general. Perhaps the change in weather just makes me a bit nostalgic for my own childhood. Perhaps the press of grown-up cares and worries have brought me down. In any case, I need to brain dump a bit. Pen and paper hasn’t inspired any outpouring of the chaos in my head, so I’ll thump it out on the keyboard instead.
職業病 (Cantonese ‘jik yip baang’)
I had a discussion with an old roommate about this Chinese phrase ‘職業病,’ literally ‘profession illness.’ We were at a loss of what the equivalent English word is. The closest translation we could think of is ‘when the skills and habits of a job seeps into day-to-day life.’ For example, at a recent small group Bible study, I couldn’t help but dream up of certain activities that would have made that night’s study a bit more interactive and engaging for everyone, not just those who are into the Socratic Q&A thing.
It’s a double-edged sword. The moment I’m ready to put down my teacher hat for a bit is the moment I’m requested to be one in a non-school setting. It means I get things done and organized when other people need my help. It also means I don’t get to get my own stuff done because other people constantly need me for this or that.
Last Sunday, I had lunch with a couple of my childhood/youth friends from my hometown. One of whom was a friend that I held a certain grudge with. About 4 years ago, she had treated another mutual friend in a very coarse and very selfish way, and it was very hurtful to the mutual friend. And when I called her out on it at the time to ask her why she was doing that, she then attacked me. I felt wronged, and I said some sharp things back, which I’ve apologized for the very next day. But she replied that she didn’t want to speak to me and didn’t accept my apology, and wanted me to not speak to her until she initiated again.
So I didn’t. And our friendship (which wasn’t terribly strong to begin with, now that I think about it) ended. We saw each other a couple of times after that: at dinner that another mutual friend set up, and then she worked at an elementary school at my district for a little bit. She did reach out after awhile, asking me if I wanted to go to certain church events at her own church. Or if my school still did our annual clothing drive, as she had some clothes she wanted to get rid of. I replied as politely as possible, but no further.
Our mutual friend (different from the one who was hurt) who set up this lunch on Sunday doesn’t know about the argument. I’m not even sure if she remembers. She certainly acts as if she doesn’t. I didn’t think I had forgiven her, even though I tried so hard to for so long. There were certainly spurts of time when I’ll suddenly be reminded of the incident and then I’ll get so angry that I would stomp around and punch things. And then time passed, and I wouldn’t think of it for months at a time.
Then I saw this post by Blogilates just this morning, and I realized that I have completely forgiven her now. I was apprehensive about that lunch on Sunday. I arrived super early to get my bearings and settle my thoughts too. She arrived next, and I greeted her cautiously. Not warmly, but also not unfriendly either. When our other friend arrived, and I greeted that friend in a much different way, I think I saw something flash across her face. Perhaps the memory of the last time we truly spoke anything to each other.
And all the anger in my heart left. I just felt sorry for her. As we chatted and caught up, I read between the lines and speculated at the stress she had in being released from her job, the loneliness involved when her husband has to be away for long hours for work and a brutal commute, the pressures of living in a neighborhood rife with a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ culture, and the entirely different pressures she must have as to why they haven’t gotten pregnant in the 4 years they’ve been married. She hid it well. But there was enough under the surface for me to feel confident that at least 3 of those 4 things are true.
So I released those negative feelings from so long ago. And I didn’t even know it until they were replaced by something closer to empathy.
It’s been over 3 months since I’ve had a free weekend to myself. This past summer, and this first month of school have been the most socially eventful time of my life. Ever. I didn’t get nearly enough hermit-mode time for my satisfaction – but I did get just enough to keep me going. Which I’m very thankful for.
Five different people, from different circles of my life each commented on what a blessing it is to be so connected with such a wide variety of people. They said it’s a sign of how much I’ve meant to others. And I’m thankful for that too. This is going to sound horrible, but let me explain: I feel a bit reassured when people that I’m slightly jealous of myself in their turn tell me that they envy my life. They envy my freedom, the ability to go and do whatever I please without a husband to check-in with or kids to tow along. That I’m welcomed everywhere because I can say yes to all sorts of things, which is encouraging to the people who do the inviting, which spawns more invites when constant, consistent, and polite ‘no, can’t make its’ dry up all that and then creates a drift and eventually a parting of ways.
And here I thought I was saying ‘no, can’t make it’ too often, with the excuse of being super tired from work, or overwhelmed with grading. The grass is greener, no?