Guest Writing Prompt: “Write about a recent conflict”
Inspiration: Pink Shirt Day
By Tish MacWebber
I remember coming home from school, crying when I was five. Someone was mean. Dad talked to me. He showed me how to make a fist, and to not put my thumb under my fingers. Then he held up his arm and swung across, it was a right hook he was showing me, so I could punch someone in the nose. He said, “ If you miss them on the way over, get them on the way back.” Meaning that if I swung and missed with my fist, my elbow could be used in the opposite direction to land the punch. My younger sister was there, and she said, “Just point them out to me when I get to school, Tish, and I’ll bop them on the nose for you.” Dad meant well. I never used that lesson, but I remember.
The bullying in school never stopped. I did my best to ignore it. When I see a select few again, now that we’re adults, I hope I can be the person I think I am and be rational. Unless they try to start something, at which point I will respond. That would cause the uncorking of a bottle of thirty years of anger, hurt feelings, and frustration. I would not want to be the person who pops that cork. Somebody might lose an eye.
When I entered the workforce, I experienced new bullies.
While working in a doughnut shop, I was slapped on the hand for offering a dog a treat, because the supply was low. We would hand out timbits to dogs in the drive through. The customer saw the whole thing, gave me a larger tip than normal, and told me to put it in my pocket.
When I worked at a fast food restaurant, there was a supervisor that liked to harass employees while they worked. One day I finally had enough. I was being yelled at about how to properly wash and sanitize the dishes. I looked at him and told him to fuck off. He asked me to repeat myself. So I did, and it was louder the second time, followed with me yelling back that after working there for two years, I knew what I was doing, and he needed to fuck off. That was the last time he got in my face, and I didn’t work there much longer.
I worked at a hospital for three years. My poor self-esteem allowed me to be bullied by both management and co-workers. One day, I was waiting in the car for my husband, and he found me crying. I was so upset by my situation that I was in the car, crying and praying for God to kill me or her, meaning my boss at the time. My husband told me to quit. My mental health was more important than money. I had been offered a layoff from the casual position and took it.
Since then, some colleagues have said that they felt bad because they knew I was not being treated fairly. In retrospect, it’s too bad that none of us knew what to do to make things better, back then. Hindsight is 20/20, eh?
I now work in a call center. I’ve had run-ins with my supervisors, and management. I’ve changed. I learned how to speak with confidence. That combined with learning how to negotiate, gave me the tools I needed to stand up for myself. I don’t avoid confrontation anymore. I face it, head on. Sometimes it scares the crap out of me, but I do it; while shaking in my boots.
How do I face conflict now? Instead of using words to hurt people, I aim to help and inspire. I use my brain for good not evil. Sometimes with an unexpected twist of humour to sway the balance. I stand my ground. If I can find a way to handle conflict and bullies, anyone can. It only took me a couple of decades to figure it out. The first step is to learn to believe in yourself.
The last Wednesday in February is pink shirt day in Canada. In a high school in Nova Scotia, a boy was bullied for wearing a pink shirt; two students bought more pink t-shirts, and they distributed them to their friends, to show the boy support. It was newsworthy when it happened. Now Canadians wear pink shirts to raise awareness about anti-bullying.
I bought my pink shirts in support of the local Boys and Girls Club. This year it says, “Kindness begins with me.” Last year it said, “Positive Actions Make Positive Change.” I don’t believe the saying, “Kids are mean.” I do believe that bullies can change, just like I as a victim did. I lead by example, and if we stand together, that’s two against one. I like those odds.
N.B Further to my previous post about community, this is a perfect example of helping your fellow human being. Education and an increased level of empathy will help us all to grow as individuals.
Find more of Tish’s blog posts here.