I hate math. And budgets, and reports, and most things analytical. I am not an operations person. I am a people person. All of my successes in the workplace for the last fifteen years have been in the following areas: sales, relationship building, mentoring, strategy and consulting, marketing and campaign design, creative work, and more relationship building. For those who follow such things, I am a Meyers-Briggs ENFP and an Enneagram Type Two. This means that I am an extrovert who is very intuitive and reads people well, who also just loves to help. Are you seeing the people connection yet? It also means I am sometimes too nice for my own good and can avoid confrontation better than most. I am, by my very nature, a people pleaser. (See: Enneagram Two) It feels a lot easier for me to listen to other people and do what they want because I don’t want to upset anyone or hurt any feelings. This has been true for me for as long as I can remember. For most of my life, it has led me into situations where I followed a plan I didn’t like or feel good about, just to avoid speaking my mind. [DB1] This certainly reared its ugly head several times when I was growing up.
The first time my family went camping, I was six years old. I had very excitedly told my Granpap that were going camping and that we would be fishing at a little lake in the campground. Like the encouraging grandfather that he was, he told me to have a good time and bring him back a fish. We drove up to camp Friday night and Saturday was to be our fishing[JS2] day. I was ready! My dad taught me and my little brother, who would have been four at the time, how to cast our lines and reel them in. My brother did it and pulled out a fish his first time around. Not to be outdone, I followed every last instruction but with no luck. He pulled fish after fish out of that lake and I couldn’t even get a nibble. If that kept up, how would I possibly be able to bring Granpap a fish? I could not even think about disappointing him like that, so I moved a little further down the bank to try a new spot. I cast and reeled and cast and reeled but to no avail. I had nothing. Nothing, that is, until I spotted a fish lying in the dirty muck of the edge of the lake. The fish was on its last breath, having been stranded in the mud like that, but I didn’t care. I also was not a kid who liked dirt, or anything slimy for that matter, but I did not care. In that moment, all I cared about was making sure I met Granpap’s expectations, so I reached my little hand onto that goop, picked up that fish, and carried it over to my dad insisting that we take it home to show him. Even at six I couldn’t stand the idea of disappointing someone. [MS3]
This tendency to keep people happy reared its ugly head on one mortifying day in middle school too, when I agreed to go on a date with a boy – even though I knew I wasn’t ready for dating – simply because my friends thought I should. This boy was very nice. He was very polite when he came with his mother to pick me up and take me to a movie. When his mom dropped us off at the theater, he grabbed my hand as we walked inside and every voice in my head was screaming, “If you run fast enough you can probably catch his mom and ask her to take you home. Run!” But I did not run. I went along inside, let him buy my movie ticket and some Junior Mints, and entered the theater. We were sitting there, waiting for the movie to start, and during a lull in the already awkward conversation, he leaned in to kiss me.
I had never kissed a boy before, and I wasn’t too excited about the idea of joining the “girls who have kissed a boy” club. I was still nervous and, frankly, borderline panicked. So when I saw his face coming toward mine, I did the only thing I could think of. I started to cry.
Middle school boys are not known for their capacity for handling big emotions. Middle school girls, however, are chock-full of emotions and ready to explode with them at the drop of a hat. And this was much more than a hat. It was like that baseball at the beginning of the Major League movies that is wearing a hat and whizzes across the frame looking like it will jump off the screen and slam you in the face. Feeling like I was about to be struck in the face, not by a sloppy middle school first kiss, but by the actual hat-wearing baseball, immediately brought tears to my eyes. Then a new kind of panic overtook both of us when we simultaneously realized I was full-blown crying. Note: It is not good for anyone’s self-esteem when the person they are trying to kiss starts to cry. I realized very quickly that my self-preservation mode had crushed this poor kid and I needed a new plan to try and save us both. Next came something I’m not proud of.
I lied. I used the fact that my beloved grandmother was in the hospital and not doing well as a scapegoat. Again, I’m not proud of it. But I needed some sort of explanation to get us out of the mess and “I’m so sorry! I went to see my grandma at the hospital this morning and she’s not doing very well, and I’m just sad about it. I’m so sorry!” sounded way better in my stupid eighth grade brain than, “The idea of kissing you terrifies me so please keep your face away from mine.” Honestly, there was no good way to get out of this scenario. Twenty-five years later, I still don’t think I could come up with anything better. Except that now, what I do know, is that better would have been listening to myself from the beginning. A better plan would have been having the courage to say, “I’m not ready for all of this even though all my friends tell me I am” and not agreeing to the ill-fated date in the first place.
When you are young, it’s easy to believe that everyone who is telling you what you should do is right, so you doubt your own instincts. If I could go back and tell my younger self anything, I would grab my shoulders and look square into my eyes and say, “Meghan your instincts are good. Follow them!” I am a firm believer that our world would be a very different place if we encouraged kids to develop and follow their instincts instead of writing out a detailed five-year plan. Maybe it would keep them from crying in movie theaters at thirteen-years-old in front of the terrified face of another thirteen-year-old.
Lesson learned: I should not make decisions based on anyone’s timeline but my own.