They Feel A Way…Oh Wow
I dealt with my first angry phone call at work this past week.
Being verbally accosted by irrational parents (or even students) was par for the course as a teacher.
So when I had to deal with those moments, I did, because it was expected.
[Don’t confuse “expected” with “warranted.” It’s almost always never warranted].
I’ve had parents accuse me of stupid things.
I’ve even had parents threaten legal action against me.
(One mother looked up my name in the phone book and said she was getting ready to drive to my house because her kid lied about something.)
Needless to say, aggressive interactions are not new to me.
As difficult as those situations were, and as much as they broke my spirit — they all seemed more “manageable” than being yelled at by a complete stranger.
A few days ago, a person called because they received a letter regarding a check that needed to be reissued to them.
The directions on the letter state to complete and sign the form and to mail or email it back for a reissued check.
You’d think so.
But apparently not.
This woman drove to Corporate offices from a “long way,” (Those were her words. She never said where she drove from.) then called me, demanding that I tell her where I was so she could give me the letter.
When I told her she couldn’t bring it directly to me, she got angry and asked where she was supposed to take the letter, who to give it to, etc.
I kept telling her, as calmly as possible, that she wasn’t supposed to take it to anyone. She was supposed to mail it or email it like the letter says.
She kept repeating, “I’m already on the ground, just tell me who to give it to.”
(To this day, I still don’t know what “on the ground” means. Was she in combat? Is this Afghanistan? Do I need to take shelter?! What was happening??)
I could not figure out where she was when she kept saying she was “on the ground,” because that could have been anywhere, really, especially since I work in one of hundreds of offices on an expansive Corporate campus that covers hundreds of square miles.
After trying to explain to her multiple times that I didn’t know where she was or how to help her, which was basically the equivalent of trying to explain rocket science to an ant, she angrily said:
“You are incompetent,” and then said I was “refusing to take responsibility for something you sent.”
That’s when I had enough.
So, as calmly as I could, but with a tone that hinted I was just 5 minutes away from using some expletives, I told her to walk into whatever building she was parked in front of, hand it to the person at the front desk, and tell them to call me, and then hung up on her.
When I slammed the phone down, my hands were shaking badly, and I was on the verge of tears.
I. Was. Mad.
I walked over to my supervisor, who calmly talked me off the ledge, reminded me that this person was an idiot who couldn’t follow simple directions and encouraged me to laugh about it.
I returned to my desk, texted my sister, took some deep breaths, and calmed down.
The next day my supervisor told me that when I approached her cubicle, I didn’t even look the same.
She said that my face and my whole demeanor were unrecognizable.
I was that consumed with rage and anger.
Being called stupid (or any variation thereof), or even being made to feel like I am stupid, is a BIG trigger for me.
You can call me fat.
You can call me ugly.
You can call me a b*tch.
You can call me manipulative or evil.
You can even lie about me.
But don’t call me stupid, and don’t ever make me feel like I am stupid.
I don’t care who you are.
Don’t do it.
Moments like this have happened a few times before in my life.
My most recent memory of this is a few years ago when a teacher on my team intentionally left me out of a group email that had pertinent information — all because she wanted me to fail and look like a fool in front of my colleagues.
Another team member brought it to my attention because she was uncomfortable when she realized I was intentionally left out and felt like she needed to tell me.
I was ENRAGED.
Because I’m an adult, and not about to play high school games, I decided to confront this person about it directly.
So I went looking for her.
And when I mean I went looking….
I went HUNTING for her.
Even now, when I think about this day, I can remember how furious I was.
Not only was she blatantly causing division on my team, of which I was the department head, she was trying to make me look STUPID in front of my team, my principals, and other district leaders.
I remember walking up and down my school hallways, going into her classroom, the copy room, the library, the lounge….everywhere…just looking for her.
I finally texted her and demanded she meet me in my room.
She came, pretending to not know what I was angry about, and I lit into her.
Of course, she denied everything and gaslit me by trying to make me feel completely insane and irrational.
When she left, I broke down and cried.
Not because of the confrontation or because I had felt betrayed by her.
None of it was about her.
I was filled with regret — because I KNEW better.
Because I knew I was better than that.
Regret that I didn’t just stop, call my sister, breathe, and take a beat.
But all I saw was red.
And because of that, this person got exactly what they wanted.
They told everyone about it and made it look like I was falsely accusing them.
Implied that I was the problem.
And in this one moment of weakness, my reputation was tarnished.
Granted, the people who knew me and the truth never bought into this person’s lies.
But, the guilt and regret I carried for not recognizing this for what it was and stopping myself were heavy.
With this recent interaction on the phone, I felt the same rage and anger…
And if this were the old me, in that anger, I would have said many things to this woman on the phone that would have probably gotten me into trouble.
But, the person I was in that moment, and even afterward, was different.
And I think it had a lot to do with how I started my morning that very day.
Before I had gone to work, I was journaling about how proud I was of myself for how well I had been doing at my job.
Just the day before this incident, I had a meeting with my boss, who was entrusting me with more leadership opportunities.
I wrote about how humbled I was to know that in every situation I’ve been placed in, whether it was teaching, grad school, or working in a tax department, I’ve been able to do it all with excellence and have been successful at it.
Y’all, I know nothing about taxes or tax laws.
I taught 5th grade English Language Arts, for goodness sake!
I never used Excel in my life, except to list the DVDs my sister and I own.
I came into this job knowing NOTHING.
When I went to file my taxes earlier this year, the lady even asked, “How did YOU find a job like this?”
Ma’am, I don’t know!
I’ve asked myself that question thousands of times.
Yet, here I am, not just working in a tax department…but thriving.
I may not love my job or see it as a dream come true, but I am proud of myself and even more grateful that in every place I step foot, God has always equipped me with exactly what I need to do successfully well.
Psalmist David wasn’t lying when he wrote, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalms 37:23, NLT).
He has constantly led my steps, and wherever I go, He has shown me that I am capable — even when I never believed in myself.
I am successful and capable because of Him.
I was an excellent teacher because of Him.
I have earned a 3.9 GPA in grad school because of Him.
I’m successful at a job I received no formal education or training for because of Him.
Because, “Greater is HE that is in me, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4)
I didn’t believe that verse until this week.
Because, unfortunately, since childhood, I was taught to give people’s opinions, words, and feelings about me power and significance.
So when someone felt a way about me succeeding in any way, they did everything in their power to try and tear me down….
And I believed them.
I would beat myself up and cower away.
I gave them so much more power than they deserved, and allowed their words to be the soundtrack to my life.
So take this post as a public service announcement:
I ain't about that life no more.
After dealing with this phone call, here’s what I know beyond a shadow of a doubt….
Whatever anyone says or believes about me, I am not.
I get to decide who and what I am.
There will always be people who will get in their feels because you’re succeeding…
Or people who want to project their failures, incompetence, insecurities, etc., onto you because they can’t get their own shiznat together…
And the ONLY way they can make themselves feel good, is by tearing you down.
So instead of doing their ACTUAL jobs, or working harder to catch up with you, they waste their time and energy doing everything they can to make you fall, fail, feel stupid, worthless, or whatever.
You’re not doing life right if you don’t have haters, right?
But, what did Queen B teach us?
They’ll never take my power.