First things first, let’s get this out of the way, before anyone things I’m judging or lecturing: everybody gossips. Absolutely everybody. It’s a psychological fact. It’s one of the ways in which people bond with one another, and it’s going to happen to you no matter how genuine you are and how nice and diplomatic you try to be.
If you’re outspoken and occasionally temperamental? Forget it. People are talking about you. If you have hard-won skills and even harder-won confidence, people will see ego, and suddenly you’ll be a target. If you’re too insecure, people will pick on you for that. Even people you like. Even people who like you. Human beings are obsessed with how we stack up to others, and sometimes that manifests as pointing out the flaws of others to reassure ourselves that no one is as perfect as they look. Or as a way of feeling like we’re a part of a group because we know things about other members of that group — never mind how we know them.
Most of the time I am able to forget this fact. I remember that I am long out of high school and that I surround myself with people who don’t build themselves up by tearing others down. But I’ve gone back to school, and with the return of school comes the return of that old dynamic of he-said, she-said. It’s easy to forget when you no longer interact with the same 10-20 people nearly every day that these dynamics exist in every group. In every family. You forget when for years your circle of friends is spaced out over several hundred miles and no one knows enough to gossip. You think you’ve outgrown it. It’s been easy for me to keep myself largely out of it. But you don’t spend three years with the same people without occasionally overhearing some catty things about yourself.
Lately I wonder what people say about me behind my back, having heard just enough to make me wonder if what I overheard was the kinder side. Are there crueler things being said about me, or it is all just truth? Am I the one with so little talent that people are caught between pitying me and snickering? Are people just too kind to say it? Am I the one who genuinely doesn’t know how bad she is?
Or do people dislike me because I’m outspoken? Do I seem to know too much? Am I trying too hard to fit in? Is my constant attempt to say something constructive, to make connections with real people, to be the person I’d want to meet — is that seen as a negative, somehow? Am I just too awkward, even after all this time?
The moment I realized I wanted to be a music therapist was the moment I realized that I valued the personal interactions I’d had so much more than the skills I’d acquired.
It makes me hurt to think that I’m the only one who felt those. While everyone else was connecting, I was the punchline.
Objectively, this isn’t the whole truth of things, but objectivity isn’t working right now. I’m stung and sad and I wonder if this is the karma I’ve earned.
I don’t have any neat way to wrap this post up. I’m too close to the lesson I’m meant to learn. I’m tired of neat answers. I’m tired of thinking I have them and I’m tired of thinking I should. It’s so easy to stand outside another’s circumstance and judge.
I need to break this habit in myself, both of caring what others think and caring what others are doing unless it’s out of genuine concern and heard straight from their mouths. I don’t want to be a part of this system. It hurts.