I recently thought I was experiencing a existential crisis, or as least as existential a crisis as can be at the age of 27. Given some interactions I’ve had in my personal life in the past few months coupled with really getting comfortable in my job nine months in, I was worried I’m getting soft.
For some context, I’ve always been pretty confrontational, both intentionally and unintentionally. I’ll snap back at someone with a response I think is quite obvious but often times, their reaction tells me that they weren’t ready or asking for what I had to say. I’ve also always struggled with being the person to step in and say something on behalf of myself and others, which we all knows usually leaves ya hanging out to dry. Either way, I’ve never been good at biting my tongue.
Confrontation at Work
This lack of aversion to confrontation makes me really good at my job. I am confrontational from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. Most of my students make it easy. They come in, are handed a report that address their potential violation, and they own up to it. Sometimes, students try to BS us or they genuinely don’t understand that what they did was a violation, but as a rule, they’re pretty honest. Either way, I’m confronting their behavior–sometimes more directly when they need a little tough love–all day everyday.
This semester in particular, I’ve had two students who gave me good reasons to suspend them. Ultimately, their cases were not handled well by other hearing officers before me, so while their behavior when they got to me was suspension-worthy, I gave them each a chance to stay. I was supported by my supervisor and our managing director in both decisions, but after the second one, my supervisor let me know she was surprised I didn’t remove the student. Of course, like any young professional, when she said that, I was immediately like “OMGWTFDIDIDO?!” in my mind. We joked that maybe I was getting soft, but really I was learning about discretion and giving people an opportunity to truly change.
Lack of Confrontation at Home
In the past few months, I’ve simply walked away from a few different friendships. No real blow out or confrontation, just me removing myself from the situation/removing people from my circle quietly. Some of these are a pretty clear cut, “I’m done” kind of removal. Some are old friends who it’s clear I’m not ideologically on the same page with anymore, so instead of pressing the issue repeatedly, I just don’t engage with them as much.
Last week, one of those former friends (more of the “I’m done” kind of removals) messaged me telling me we were still friends, even if I didn’t think so. My initial response: LOL NAH. This is one of those people who has to be the smartest person in the room always, so I let them talk and talk and talk and just kept my responses pretty short.
After a couple back-and-forths, they said something to the effect of, “Well I thought you’d have blown up at me or cussed me out or something, not just cut me off.” My response? I don’t have the energy for that anymore. When you’re confrontational in your day job, you become pretty evasive in your personal life. That doesn’t mean I won’t go for the jugular now and then when I think it’s warranted–and when a confrontation does come about, I’m very likely winning–but there are very few instances now where I think it’s truly warranted at all.
So let me be clear: I haven’t gotten soft, I’ve gotten smart. I simply don’t have the energy or desire to confront behavior in people who aren’t giving me a reason to keep them around. Not everyone is worth the time and energy it takes to argue. For lack of a better way to put it, here’s my new motto:
So here’s to solely investing my time and energy in magical shit and people from here on out. If that makes me soft, well so be it!
Til next time,