50 Years of Perspective

“You have a different perspective. No offense.”

With her hands dismissively waving me away… she meant offense.

See, the woman saying those words and silencing me was in the middle of complaining about another change at work, thanks to COVID-19. She, and others, were wondering how they were going to make the change.

In my sometimes irritatingly, glass-half-full way, I was offering an upside to the change.

She saw me as some inexperienced, doe-eyed optimist that had no place amongst the seasoned vets.

I immediately went into my defense mode: Make the other person feel ok about their actions towards me.

Instead of saying: “Yes I do have a different perspective. I have 20 years experience in a career that changed all the time. Many times, my plans changed within a minute, with no time to plan. I didn’t have a week to prepare. I had a minute.”

(I said none of that. I apologized instead.)

People often see each other through a narrow lens. We see each other in the moment we are in with them.

That woman saw me as a newbie. Not as someone who had been in classrooms for nine years. Not someone who had a 20-year career that demanded her 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Not as someone who made huge sacrifices as a new mom, pumping in the bathroom, but getting little to nothing out because it is hour 14 at work.

She didn’t see the little girl who spent her life hiding her pain so her mom didn’t know her one babysitting option lead to my sexual abuse.

She didn’t see the girl from the trailer park, dismissed over and over as someone who didn’t have a voice.

She didn’t see the woman who faced adversity and abuse starting at the age of 4, and had one survival tool, one coping mechanism.

I coped by seeing the good.

The only way for a 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 year old to keep the horrific secret of being sexually abused is to act as if the bad wasn’t happening.

The only way for a pre-teen to keep her babysitting job and not upset her own mom, is to act as if her mom’s friend’s husband didn’t try to rape her in front of his daughter. I had to ignore that he was also stalking me on my paper route.

When a teenage girl is raped, a way to cope is to act as if it didn’t happen. The shame is too much to bear. At this point, it must be my fault.

The abuses were not the only part of my life that gave me a better perspective.

Many can relate to what it is like to grow up poor. No family trips. Sometimes we had no car. Sometimes we had no heat. The trailer has holes in the floor? Put boards over the holes.

Many can relate to having a parent that was absent my entire life. Refused to send support, refused to love me.

Those dark times can affect us all differently. I count myself lucky that my 4-year old brain chose to look for the light.

So, now, as I turn 50 today, I look around and see light. Adversity comes and I try to find a way to meet it and beat it.

Don’t get me wrong. I cry. I get angry. I pity myself sometimes.

But, always, I find the light.

Everyone has a different perspective. Everyone brings their own experiences to the table. Everyone responds to life in the ways they were trained to respond.

Looking at another person and assuming they are who you see is a mistake one should never make.

You never know how their perspective could help you.

That’s all I wanted to say to her.

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