There’s no right way to live a life, you just do the best you can.

Let me grab my soap box from under my bed, clean off the dust, and stand upon it.  You are warned and proceed reading at your own risk of disagreeing with me and/or hate me.

With everything that’s happened at work, people think it’s an open invitation to explain to you what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, and why do you wear flip flops?  Much of this opinion is asked for by me and appreciated and some I just smile and nod until they GO AWAY.  Unless you’re in my body and my mind and have lived in my shoes for the past 8 months (and I’m pretty sure I was the only one, unless you’re very small and invisible) then you don’t get it.  You don’t understand.  Just like I don’t understand your struggles and the decisions you make.  That’s the thing about opinions, they’re like butt holes, everyone has one.  I have 42.75.  I am just as guilty as the next person (probably more so) for telling those that I care about the RIGHT thing to do.  The more life I have lived, the more I learn that I don’t know a damn thing.  NOW I KNOW all that I DON’T know, which is nearly everything.

So I’ve heard it all…you should have done THIS…you should never have done THIS…what were you THINKING?

I understand that it comes from a place of love and caring about me and my family, and that’s exactly what I take it as.  I have also learned in my 28 years on this planet that each person gets to decide for themselves what they want to do (anyone over 18 at least).  And I can listen and do the opposite because I know is right for me.  I GET that everyone is worried about our family at this present time (I’m the president of this club) and everything they say is from that place.

There is enough blame to go around with this whole situation.  Do I take responsibility for my part in it?  Absolutely.  Did I make mistakes?  Only about a million times a gazillion to the power of a billion (translation: a whole hell of a lot).  Do I have regrets?  Surprisingly, very little.  I did what I believed was right and true for myself and my kids.  However, I learned a whole hell of a lot too!  I have things I will do differently in the future, but I learned from my mistakes and I also learned some things that are non-negotiable about myself.  And if that means I’m not going to work for a particular place or a particular person, I can live with that.  I spend too much of my life at work to be miserable there.

I believe the universe gives us lessons and at first it whispers them, then it shouts them softly, then it hits you with a brick on your head.  The same lessons will be provided for you in life UNTIL YOU GET THE MESSAGE, UNTIL YOU LEARN THE LESSON.  I didn’t get the message.  I didn’t learn the lesson.  Now I have it.  It’s tattooed on the inside of my forehead where I can never get away from it.

The thing that was the hardest about the last 8 months is that I learned the true character of some people I worked with.  I was really disappointed with what I discovered.  It got to the point where I didn’t feel like I could do anything right and I dreaded going to work where I would hear what a horrible person I was and how I was hurting my kids.  It got to the point where I just wanted to be out of there.

I felt that all the great things I did (which I felt were many) in three years didn’t count for anything.  I felt like I was being judged by rumors and perceptions that I didn’t feel were fair or accurate .  It really bothers me that people seem to truly believe these horrendous things about me.  It doesn’t really bother them that they didn’t ask me about it or the other people involved.  They may never know the truth about me.  And I have to learn to accept that.

Last spring when I went through a very similar experience and I fought for my job.  Surprisingly (to me at least), it wasn’t the fight that allowed me to keep my job, but rather the clarity I gained about my participation in the problem and how I could correct it in the future.  I will always feel gratitude and admiration toward my principal for giving me a second chance and I will always feel remorse that I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain (in her eyes).

This fall I felt angry, sad, disappointed, afraid, and every other emotion.  In the end the only thing that mattered to me was the students’ in my class.  If I “fought” for my job it would have been detrimental to them.  They never asked to be in the middle of it, and I didn’t think it was fair and I couldn’t live with myself if I knowingly caused them more harm.  I knew that it was a no-win situation.  If I tried to force others to see my side of the issue and I kept my job, it would have been miserable to work with people who truly believe in their hearts that I am an evil person.  On top of that I was 99% sure that nothing I did would allow me to finish out the year so all that would happen is I could get kids, parents, and staff  to choose sides (maybe mine, but also maybe not).  Who would that help in the end?  No one.  Who would that hurt in the end?  My kids, my parents, and myself.  Mostly my kids.  I couldn’t ask them to sacrifice more when they had already suffered enough.  It is unfair that they were put in the middle of a bad situation in the first place.  They didn’t ask for it, they didn’t want it, they didn’t sign up for it, and mostly they didn’t deserve it.  I couldn’t feel good about being a teacher if I made that choice for them.  So when I was given a choice, I always chose what I believed was best for my kids.  They never volunteered to be in the middle of this fight and I wouldn’t have let them, even if they had wanted to.  It’s too much to put on kids.  And I realized I could only choose my actions and I was the one who had to live with my choices.  Looking back I feel really good about my choices and actions and feel that I did the best I could with a situation I had very little control over.  I’m proud of how I acted and reacted.

I also learned something from my mom.  When we moved into the house she still lives in, I was about 15, a freshman in high school.  On one side we had the nicest neighbors anyone could ever ask for.  On the other side we had the worst neighbors (I’m sure there are worse, but I don’t even want to imagine it).  It felt like if you stepped half your foot onto their lawn they would be down there so fast to yell and scream at you.

It became this horrible, huge thing in our lives.  They would mow down my mom’s flowers and when she held onto their wrist to stop them, they would call the police and accuse her of assault.  They tried to get a restraining order for my mom.  Now my mom is a very strong woman, I would never want to be in a physical fight with her because I’m pretty sure she would kick my ass.  But she has weighed 7 pounds all her life (yes, I am starting a IT’S NOT FAIR club if you would like to join and think bad thoughts about people like this…my mother included) and it was idiotic to think that a 350 pound man was scared of her.  It was very clear to me that they were just some of those people in life that are miserable and they are SO unhappy that just being miserable by themselves isn’t enough, they have to make everyone around them miserable too.  They would pick the most asinine things to fight with us about.  I knew with certainty (when I had all the answers to life when I was in high school) that we were reasonable and they were out of their minds.  We were right and they were wrong.  I was also pretty sure they were clinically insane.

So as a family we fought them.  When I would see them I would give them my very dirtiest looks (very useful later as a teacher), give them the finger, and swear at them under my breath.  Mostly it was my mom’s fight, but I was her number one cheerleader.  They are WRONG.  We are RIGHT.  Go TEAM.  This escalated into a court battle that dragged on for years and never went anywhere.  In the end we had spent four years of our life fighting this fight, my mom spent SO MUCH MONEY (I bet if she could get back that money, she could think of much better ways to spend it), and we won nothing.  No answers, no resolution, just more time, more money, more fights,  more hate.

I remember the day when I got home from school and mom told me she quit.  She agreed that if they would pay to put up a fence in between our houses she would give them everything they wanted.  We lost.  Or rather, she gave up.  I was so mad at her and I couldn’t understand why she had forfeited.  We were RIGHT and they were WRONG.  I was just as sure of it that day as I am of it today.  She tried to explain that it hadn’t been about winning anymore, it was the cost (monetarily, but mostly emotionally) to continue to fight.  There are few decisions that my mom has made in her life that I totally disagree with, most of the time I support her 1000%.  This was one of the decisions I thought she messed up BIG TIME.

It would be years before I understood exactly how wise her decision was.  I don’t think until I made this decision about work, I fully understood her decision or why she made it.  It wasn’t about winning and losing or who was right or wrong, it was about the price she was willing to pay.  In a true war there are no winners, there are just people who get hurt and people who get more hurt.  Looking back now, I think one of the major reasons they fought the battle for so long is because it gave them perverse pleasure to make other people as miserable as they were.  I think they would have kept this court battle going for as long as they could.  They got enjoyment out of it.  And they won because we bought into it.  We engaged and they got what they wanted.

It was years later that I realized not only was mom not willing to pay the price to continue to fight this battle but she understood something that so few people do when they are in the middle of it.  To be able to fight you have to have an enemy, you have to hate your enemy, and to have any chance of winning, that hatred has to consume your daily life.  What my mom taught me by example (even though I transferred a lot of my hatred and anger from our neighbors onto her for quitting) was that it’s more important to decide if the war is worth fighting.  Is it worth it to live and breathe hatred every moment and stunt your own growth or greater understanding so you can continue fighting?

Are there certain things that are worth fighting a war over?  For me, they are few and far between, but yes.  There is a time and a place to stand up and be heard and fight until you “win” or die trying.  Work wasn’t a war that was worth the cost for me.  “Winning” would be going to work at a place where I wasn’t appreciated, I felt misjudged and misunderstood, and I felt like there were people who were waiting for me to trip up so they could laugh and point.

Did I pay a price?  Yes.  Did my family pay a price? Yes.  Was it worth it when I could find another job (hopefully, fingers crossed)?  No.  The cost was too great and so when I was asked to walk away, I walked away.  Not because I thought I was wrong (even though I made more than my fair share of mistakes) but because I didn’t want it to cost me, my family, and my kids anymore than it already did.  And just as importantly, I didn’t want to have to stay in a place, in my mind and heart, where I had to carry hatred and rage to forge the daily battle it required.  It wasn’t worth it.

Even unemployed and uninsured, I’m happy with the choice I made to walk away from a war that wasn’t worth the cost to me and the others I cared about.  Sometimes walking away means you have more courage and strength than if you stand and fight.

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6 Responses to There’s no right way to live a life, you just do the best you can.

  1. Khyra's Mom says:

    I could write so much in response but I’ll KISS:

    Bravo!

    P.S. I will admit my daily brick is giving me one helluva headache

  2. Nicole says:

    I sincerely hope good things come your way, babe. Until then, hang on to your positive attitude!!

  3. J says:

    I don’t know exactly what happened, but I hope you get some inspiring and good news ASAP!

  4. Denise says:

    Dear Kate… I’m controlling myself not to cry… it was so inspiring and as another comment states, I don’t know exactly what happened, but I know that something similar happened to me – not at work, in my personal life – and I fought, fought, fought to state my point, because I believe in it… and in the end, I simply gave up, because I saw it was not worth to be in that situation… you name it, work, university, relationship, anything that is not worth enough, that makes you sick (emotionally, mentally and physically) is not worth, Kate, you are so right. That’s why I totally understand you!
    Yesterday I was reading a book that explains about some of the people you were talking about… The Sociopath next door – Martha Stout. Yes, there are people who enjoy producing pain. They are unhappy and they want everybody to be the same. But when people say STOP! I don’t want this fight! I don’t need it! It’s not about me, it’s about your sick mind! Then we realize what is worth in our lives. We don’t have to tolerate what we are not guilty of.
    So, Kate, you said a thousand things that are soooo true! (I will use on my blog, OK? Just some!) I admire your courage, and remember: one the “universe” closes one door… it is opening a window where the view is even more beautiful… believe in things, you will get a fantastic job, you will see!
    And the previous post shows your sweet son… he is an angel! And he, your family, is what counts. Not the sociopaths around us!

  5. Mary Jo says:

    Yeah for you! I am so very PROUD of you for standing up for what was most important – in spite of looking at unemployment as a consequence. And now you have what I hope will become your “dream job”! Congratulations – I am so proud of you AGAIN!

    But I remember the “neighbor” story a little differently – I remember that it was your and Jessica’s wisdom that helped me to see the price I was paying – emotionally – and what that was costing me in my life. And that’s why I “quit”. And I’m very glad I did too!

    Love, mom

  6. I’m not small and invisible, and I haven’t walked in your shoes. I can’t imagine how you’re getting through this, except that you sound very strong and determined. Being judged is the worst, isn’t it? I really wish you all the best…

    P.S. Would it be ok if I put you on my blogroll? I like reading your stuff!

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